Archives For Brent Pittman

Feet at the ocean

Can you live stress free?

Stress is a part of our everyday lives. Stress causes us to react out of fear to preserve our lives. We don’t have sabertooth tigers chasing us anymore, but the stress mechanism remains.

Long term stress can cause serious health problems: heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems, depression, obesity, memory impairment, and I’m sure others that haven’t been discovered yet.

If you’re like me, money has be one the top stressors in my life. I’ve learned to reduce financial stress and hope I can help reduce yours too.

Causes of Financial Stress

1) Lack of Income- Not having enough income is frustrating. Being laid off or not able to find a job that pays the bills is frustrating. I’ve been there.

Finding a part-time job while you are searching for full time employment might be a short term solution. Ultimately you’ll need to find something you love doing that pays the bills. These books have helped me with career questions and finding work I love: No More Dreaded Mondays and The $100 Startup.

2) Debt- Debt weighs you down and causes stress, especially when bills keep coming in. Bill collectors only add to your stress level.

Find a plan to deal with your debt will reduce your stress. I’ve seen it happen with friends and clients.

3) Wind in the air budgeting- Determining the wind direction with a wet finger isn’t an accurate method, yet many budget their money with this method. Ditch the best guess method and learn how to budget like a pro.

4) “It’s all up to me.” mentality- Believing that your financial future is all up to you can cause stress. Don’t get me wrong I am a strong advocate of personal responsibility and hard work–I do however recognize there is a spiritual aspect to money and life.

I’ve found that trusting God with my finances and the future has relieved much stress in my life. This is a daily practice and a perspective I have to remind myself of when I feel stress creeping in.

Dealing With Stress

The effects of stress are not enjoyable and our relationships will suffer. Coping with stress and stress management are short term solutions At some point you’ll need to deal with the root causes of stress.

If you need financial help, consult an counselor and/or clergy member to discuss the root causes and find solutions. If I can help, contact me directly with your questions.

Let’s reduce our financial stress and move towards financial peace.

Dealing With Stress

Photo Credit programwitch

Does money stress you out? How do you deal with these financial pressures? 

Photo Credit HRC

Keep a Secret

Shh… American Airlines has a secret program for expired miles. Credit Daniela Vladimirova

Do American Airlines miles expire? Yes, If you have no qualifying activity in an 18 month period those miles are toast.

BUT I can show you how to restore those “lost” miles on the cheap with a secret program.

My wife and I racked a good number of AA miles flying from California to visit family and also flying around the world when we were single.

Due to Southwest’s Bags Fly Free program and generally cheaper prices we’ve stopped flying American Airlines and our accounts became inactive.

Thanks to my wife’s persistence we learned about one of their secrets. (Side tip: Marry a frugal spouse!)

They have a secret program code named the American Airlines Re-engagement Challenge that can’t be found on their website.

American Airlines Re-engagement Challenge

You’ll have to actually call their hot-line and talk to a real live person. (1-800-882-8880)

Explain the situation of your lost miles and ask if there is any way to revive those miles. If they aren’t helpful ask about their Reengagement Challenge.

They might be shocked that you are such a knowledgeable insider–just don’t tell them where you heard about it or they might come after me and my AA miles. :-)

ReEngagement Challenge Details: How Does it Work?

Simple really. I’ll share the bullet points. If you want to see the details click Reengage AA Miles.

  • Agree to sign up for two email lists for the length of your re-engagement challenge without unsubscribing.
  • Pay $30 over the phone.
  • Fly on 1 round trip flight on American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, or Japan Airlines within 6 months OR
  • Earn 5,000-7,000 base partner miles to revive up to 50,000-75,000 expired miles. (This seems tricky since many programs for earning are exempted from the Re-Engagement Challenge)
  • To restore 75,000+ miles you’ll need to fly on 2 round trip flights in 6 months or earn 10,000 base partner miles.

If you have enough miles to redeem American Airlines miles for a free ticket (12.5 one way for EconomyMileSAAver program, 25K miles for round trip), AND have a plan for earning the miles–Only then you should consider coughing up the $30 for the Re-Engagement Challenge. 

We both have near the 25K needed for a free flight and an upcoming AA flight will push us over the ledge, so we choose to pay $60 total to reactivate both accounts.

On a side note we learned one way to keep your AA miles active is to donate 1,000 miles to one of their active nonprofit listed on their site every year.

Have your American Airlines miles expired? Will you start the Re-Engagement Challenge to revive those expired miles? 

Tax Day Funny

Happy Tax Day! Credit brianjmatis

Happy Tax Day! Wait you remembered to file your taxes for 2012 right?! You have until tonight to file your taxes or file an extension for 2012. [Tax Deadlines for 2013]

At the second I write this, we’re waiting to hear back from our tax professional if we need to file an extension or if we’re in the clear. Update: We ended up filing an extension for the first time ever since we didn’t get our tax guy the papers till Friday.

In our defense we are still living in suitcases and boxes while we remodel our new place.

I thought I’d share some cool Tax Day Resources if you’re still getting crazy with your calculator and Turbo Tax.

Tax Day Free Stuff

Free Paper Shredding and Copying at Office Depot on Tax Day- Thanks Living on the Cheap for making us aware!

The Penny Pinchin’ Mom has a good list too for tax day deals too, along with list from Huffington Post.

Coupon for tax relief Arby’s Fries

Tax Day Resources

What Happens if I Don’t Pay My Taxes? 

What Happens if You Miss the Tax Deadline + How to File a Tax Extension

15 Ways to Spend a Tax Refund Traditional and Non-Traditional Ideas

Why Getting a Large Tax Refund is Bad

Oops! I Made a Mistake on My Tax Return, but I Already Filed. Now What? 

How are you feeling on Tax Day 2013? 

Constanza wallet

Is it time to clean out your Costanza Wallet? Credit shareski

I’ve been a fan of the trifold wallet since I started carrying one back as a wee lad.

The trifold is nothing special, it’s just what I grew up and what is comfortable to me…that is until it becomes so fat that I can’t have it in my pocket.

“This is an organizer, a secretary, and a friend.”- George Costanza


That makes me begin to wonder: What is in my wallet? In homage of Spring Cleaning. It’s time to clean out the ole’ wallet. For you voyeurs, this should be fun.

A Catalogue of What’s in My Wallet

I have to make this wallet thinner. I’ll put a Trash to those items I’m taking out.

Inside the folds

  • $40 in mostly one dollar bills that I have saved for garage sale season.
  • $1.26 left over for money to spend on my wife. (We budget cash to spend on each other each money)
  • My new address listed on sticky note.

Left Fold

  • ING relic debit card that will soon be replaced I’m sure [RIP ING Direct…].
  • XX bank debit card
  • Insurance card
  • Best Buy Rewards Card Trash
  • REI Member Card
  • Safeway Club card Trash
  • Old insurance card Trash
  • Costco Card- I can trash this when our membership expires.

Middle Fold

  • Drivers License
  • Picture of my wife
  • Picture of my son as baby
  • Stash of old receipts
  • 4 OTC business cards

Right Fold

  • Starbucks Gold card–yes I like coffee.
  • Business Debit card
  • Old McDonald’s Gift Card Trash
  • Panera Bread card
  • HSA debit card
  • AAA card

What’s missing?

  • Current insurance card-doh!
  • My lunch money, mad money, and couples spending money for the new month. Time to check YNAB to see how much to withdraw.

Sorry, nothing too exciting or revealing. I was able to ditch a few items, but most are essentials.

I’ll need to investigate an app that stores my reward card numbers. Any suggestions?

Now it’s your turn to Spring Clean your wallet or pocketbook.

What’s in your wallet? What could/should you take out. 

Helpful Articles on Cleaning Your Wallet

Inflation. These words might give you the chills or just a blank stare, depending on your age. I was born in the late 70’s and don’t remember ever having to deal with high inflation rates. High inflation rates are harmful to the purchasing power of the individual consumer. If there is a 5% annual inflation rate, a $1.00 cup of coffee (I wish) would cost $1.05 the following year.

Inflation:

“The rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services is rising, and, subsequently, purchasing power is falling. Central banks attempt to stop severe inflation, along with severe deflation, in an attempt to keep the excessive growth of prices to a minimum.”- Investopedia

I believe my time of experiencing low inflation rates will be over soon and a new generation will once again learn how to deal with a high inflationary atmosphere.

Brief History of Inflation in the U.S. and Canada (for those who weren’t there)

In the 1970s the United States and Canada experienced a time of high inflation. It was characterized by gas shortages, high mortgage rates, rising prices, high unemployment, and social change.

Why? It wasn’t just high oil prices, but a poor monetary policy including increasing the national debt and lowering interest rates lead by Nixon and Fed Chairman Arthur Burns (The Great Inflation of the 1970s).

“OPEC got all the credit for what the U.S. had mainly done to itself.” WSJ (1986) via Investopedia

Measures of Inflation (nerd section)

There are different ways to measure inflation: Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Producer Price Index (PPI), Consumer Price Index (CPI), Employment Cost Index (ECI), and even more. The most common measures are generally GDP and CPI, though there is debate amongst economists as to which measure is the best indicator for inflation.

CPI Index from 1914-2012 - These numbers are slightly higher than GDP.

Inflation by GDP: (U.S. and Canada) 

High inflation not only effects the U.S., but the whole world market.

Prepare for High Inflation

1. Fix Your Rates- If you have variable interest rates on your credit cards, mortgages, student loans, or private loans–NOW is the time to transfer to fixed interest rates. In a high interest economy variable rates will keep rising, thus increasing your interest and lengthening your time in debt.

2. Cash Reserves- Keep a good stash of cash of cash as your buying power will decrease with inflation. Start with an emergency fund and then grow from there. Check out this cool Inflation Calculator to see how your buying power changes. For fun plug in the numbers for the last car you bought.

3. Buy a House- Interest rates for mortgages are currently at historic rates and will rise quickly. Houses will increase in value as inflation rises, so in a sense you ride the wave of inflation with your largest asset. High interest rates could lock you out of the market, so plan on purchasing sooner than later if you are on the fence.

4. Consider rental property (if you are out of debt and financially stable) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) for protection against inflation.

5. Invest in I-Bonds or TIPS- Having these in your mix of investments will help protect your portfolio from high inflation. You can cut out the middleman and buy I-bonds directly from Treasury Direct. TIPS can be bought through a variety of ways. It is a good idea to compare TIPS and I-Bonds to see which bond is right for you and always ask your financial advisor if this fits into your overall investing plans.

6. Invest in Non-Perishable Bulk Items- This is an interesting concept of buying items like toilet paper and razors that will increase in price with inflation. Stock up today and you’ll save money down the road. Learn more about this alternative investing method here.

More Inflation Articles:

No economists can be certain when inflation will hit, the duration of the inflationary period, or how high the rates will get. It is a good idea to prepare for higher inflation by reducing debt and incorporating some or all of the above tips for preparing for high interest rates.
It seems likely (in my opinion) that high inflation will again be a financial issue to be dealt with based on similar circumstances in the 1970s and recent reports: Bloomberg, and high inflation already in India and China.

 

Do you think you will face high inflation during your lifetime? How are you preparing for high inflation?

 

Photo Credit  SurvivalWoman (Creative Commons)